The word pain traces its origins through French to Latin and finally the Greek word “poine,” which means a penalty or punishment. Unfortunately the etymology of the word is easier to define than what pain actually is. The difficulty in defining pain is due to tolerance and perception differences between people. defines pain as, “physical suffering or distress due to injury or illness,” and “a distressing sensation in a particular part of the body.” While these definitions give us an idea of what pain is, it doesn’t tell us how pain works or if there are different types of pain.

The Technical Side of Pain

In a nutshell pain is your brain’s way of interpreting a stimulus. This stimulus can be external, like a cut from a knife, or internal, like a pulled muscle.  When a stimulus is felt by one of your nerves it is passed along your nerves until it reaches your brain. Once there the brain can interpret that stimulus as pleasant or unpleasant. Pleasant stimuli, like a massage from your office massage chair, results in your brain interpreting that sensation as something you probably don’t mind.  Unpleasant stimuli like a burn or injured joint, cause your brain to tell you that something bad is happening. Basically pain is your brains way of telling you to stop what you are doing because what you are doing is damaging you. Pain is just your brain’s way of protecting you body from damage.

Classifications Of Pain

There are many different types of pain, but these types can usually be grouped into either acute, chronic pain, or breakthrough pain.

Acute pain – This is the pain you feel that lasts a short amount time. While you may think this pain is long lasting, in medical terms it has a short duration. You may feel acute pain after an injury, during an illness, or following a surgery.

Chronic Pain  – A long lasting pain, typically felt more than 6 months, is defined as chronic pain. Chronic pain can also be the result of an injury or illness but it does not disappear like acute pain. Some rheumatic conditions, like arthritis, can also cause pain that does not seem to ever go completely away.

Breakthrough Pain – When a patient’s typical pain management treatment seems to stop working for a short period of time, causing an increased level of pain, it is called breakthrough pain. Not everyone experiences breakthrough pain, but when it is felt it may cause the patient to be almost overcome by the pain.

Managing Pain

Pain is never good. When your body is being damaged or experiencing a problem that causes pain it is important to be seen by a physician trained in pain management techniques. Your best choice for chronic pain management treatments is a rheumatologist, like the ones at IBJI. A rheumatologist is not only trained to treat rheumatic diseases, like lupus and arthritis, but they also are able to effectively help you get relief from many other conditions. If you are experiencing any type of pain, especially chronic, make an appointment now with one of our pain specialist. The physicians at the Illinois Bone and Joint Institute will evaluate your pain, find the cause, and then create a comprehensive treatment plan to get you the relief you need.

This information is not intended to provide advise or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).